Wednesday, March 11, 2009

HOMINUS EX MACHINA:
The Somnambulist Worlds Man Hath Built
for Caligari's Hard-Wired Children

"The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are."

- Philip K. Dick (1928-1982),
from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- Somewhere in time, on some drunken night of mayhem, he'd shattered his iPhone against a brick wall.

Chunks of ancient red dust from some unknown facade filled the crevices in the broken screen. The machine's guts dangled from the back of the white casing like intestines from a disemboweled medieval criminal.

And in the living room, a laptop notebook, state-of-the-art and sleek and monstrous, streamed digital music via some hidden wireless router somewhere, some Internet radio station broadcasting cyborg binary compression waves that the notebook's software deciphered into something that resembled heavy metal.

The large flatscreen television was on and flickering the splash page of some video game, one of those escapist first-person shooters where the user is allowed to recreate their normal real-world self into something heroic and futuristic and noble. Three different game consoles were wired into the television, as was a DVR and a DVD/Blu-Ray player, a stereo system, too.

Scores of movies, crammed together and yet without any semblance of organization, lined the shelves of the entertainment center. Bookshelves, too, had been conscripted to house the media collection. No books were to be found anywhere, save for the odd textbook or course-required novel.

The walls are lined with various posters - not of anything interesting but of posters of bikini-clad women, creative advertising for liquor companies and bands - and one portrait of his roommate's girlfriend, a laser-printed image on stock paper, yellows in a frame on the dinette that doubles as a beer-pong table on weekends.

Such a bland life it must be, to be consumed by a living room of electronic things and to be without anything of human civilization beyond that which can be digitized.

Alas, a side effect of the balm of the Information Age. Instead of liberating ourselves through our advanced technology, we simply cocoon ourselves inside cathedrals built for the gods in our machines and call that creation "life."

Why should man ever travel to Mars or actually dedicate ourselves to exploring the universe? I tell myself as I stare at the television screen, When it's simply easier to let an artificially-created virtual android like Master Chief fight other illusionary space monsters on our television screens?

Does Master Chief dream electric dreams of real people, when the game's paused or the plug pulled?

Or has the virtual world merely taken control of reality, with a hardware upgrade here and a software patch there?

- # # # -

1 comment:

librarianwoes said...

It looks like you just discovered The proliferation of the CyberDouche! PKD is perfect here! I weep for us all...